I am a grudge holder.
Without the grace of God, I am naturally and obstinately unforgiving. Even when I try to put my mind to forgiveness, anger at the “forgiven” offense returns periodically and unexpectedly… like a bad rash.
I happen to be a firm believer in justice over mercy. Especially when it isn’t my sin being called into question. After all, good people deserve good things, and bad people deserve what’s coming to them. The whole idea of karma, cosmic boomerang, and poetic justice is so deeply satisfying.
But, God is not that way. His love does not keep record of wrongs. He doesn’t keep tally to make sure that everything is “even.” And He expects His children follow suit.
Biblical love doesn’t hold a grudge. It doesn’t keep tabs on a debt that can never be paid. Love doesn’t say, “You owe me one,” or beats another into submission with the mistakes of their past. Instead, love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Love doesn’t really forget, but, in spite of what it knows, love always forgives. (1 Cor. 13:7) Scripture says that God forgives as we forgive. (Mt. 6:12) It also says that if we fail to forgive, He will withhold His forgiveness. (Mt. 6:14-15)
Unforgiveness, like every other sin, has irremovable consequences. Bitterness and hatred breed death and despair. Replaying a betrayal may feel satisfying in the moment but in the long run, it is an emotional and spritual leech that drains us of peace and joy.
My father used to say, “Kayla. You can’t let people live in your head, rent free.” What he meant by that is, when we relive past hurts and offenses over again from every angle, we make a home for our offenders in the forefront of our minds. The more often we replay our offense, the more comfortable our offender becomes in our brain—whether they know it or not.
Oftentimes, we torture ourselves unceasingly with the unchangeable while our offender has already moved on. This practice leaves us tired and frustrated. Like the Israelites walking through the desert, we can’t move forward because we are stuck going in circles. In order to escape the cycle, we must determine in our hearts to eat the cost of debt for what was done against us. We must do as Paul says: keep no records of wrongs.
Keeping no records of wrongs means agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sinful behavior. It’s crumpling the bill of what they owe you. Even if you’ve been greatly injured, it’s expecting nothing in return for your pain. Keeping no record of wrongs is trusting that God will deal with that person fairly and justly… even if that justice means mercy and grace.
It’s humbling because the temptation in our flesh to get angry can be strong. Personally, my initial reaction to pain is to lash out. Remember, along with being a grudge holder, I’m a fighter by nature. I desire more than getting even; I want restitution by revenge. It’s in those situations that I am faced with a choice: I can cling to my bitterness and try to squeeze water from rocks. I can prosecute, in search of repayment from those who’ve hurt me.
Or, I can remember when I came to Christ I gave up the right to hold onto those things. I can remember that God doesn’t bring back my past and throw it in my face to punish me. God doesn’t make me scrape and bow and grovel.
Instead, He forgives so completely that you would think He’d forgotten.
In the end, restitution will never make us whole again. A broken lamp might be replaced, but what was shattered can never be fully restored to its former state. Only God can bring the best from what was broken. Only God can heal and restore. Only God can give you the biblical love you need when you face an impossible situation. And He will.
Once you let the record go.
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